For the first time in almost a decade, it looks like a wrong might be on the verge of finally being made right.
It shouldn’t have taken this long. Or been so controversial and convoluted. But if you know baseball, then you know it rarely delivers the obvious, no-brainer outcomes on the diamond. Or off it.
Barry Bonds deserved to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame the moment he became eligible in 2013. But for the past nine years, the disputed home run king and undisputedly one of the greatest position players of all time, never garnered enough votes by the baseball writers to earn inclusion into Cooperstown.
We all know why—alleged use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs—but it’s forever been comical how the self-righteous writers, essentially the gatekeepers of the Hall, have selectively chosen who belongs, and who doesn’t, while conveniently forgetting or completely ignoring the obvious.
It’s a museum.
It ain’t a church, synagogue, or mosque.
Nor is it a world heritage site.
And it’s absolutely not a club where only the sanctified should be allowed entry.
Any semi-knowledgeable fan, and for certain all the Hall of Fame voters, know there are certified cheaters and repugnant racists who were elected eons ago. And what about some of the recent inductees who earned immortality despite whispers they shoveled funny-sounding supplements down their throats or injected strange substances into their asses in order to boost production and their paychecks?
The hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame exist to celebrate and document the national pastime’s greatest players and most memorable moments. Frankly, I could care less what the stars of the game did, or didn’t, put into their bodies, especially during the years before 2007 when MLB finally began testing players for banned substances. But the poster child for baseball’s Steroid Era—Bonds, a seven-time MVP who hit a record-breaking 762 home runs over his 22 seasons—has been kept out of the Hall by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, punished despite never returning a positive test.
That level of hypocrisy is about as subtle as a Bonds blast into McCovey Cove.
Because any semi-knowledgeable fan, and for certain all the Hall of Fame voters, know there are certified cheaters and repugnant racists who were elected eons ago. And what about some of the recent inductees who earned immortality despite whispers they shoveled funny-sounding supplements down their throats or injected strange substances into their asses in order to boost production and their paychecks?
As former federal agent Jeff Novitzky, who investigated allegations of steroid use by Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens during the early 2000s recently wrote, “I believe that a major portion of MLB players used PEDs before the league and the players’ union agreed to put forth their now-credible anti-PED program.” What sense has it made blocking Bonds (and Clemens) from entering a museum while players dogged by suspicion—guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, to name just a few, who never tested positive, but were rumored to have taken PEDs during their legendary careers—have been welcomed in?
You remember Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, the great catcher who played for six teams over 21 seasons? He was enshrined in 2017 despite allegations of PED use leveled by his former teammate Jose Canseco—problematic at times, but the home run hitter turned out to be a credible source when he blew the lid off baseball’s steroid culture. Rodriguez was asked if he was one of the 100 or so players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 when MLB conducted an exploratory survey. Upon the inquiry, Pudge told the AP, “Only God knows.”
We do know that David Ortiz, the darling of Red Sox Nation who clobbered too many memorable postseason home runs to list and remains an awesome ambassador for the game, was named as one of the roughly 100 players who turned up a positive test for PEDs in the 2003 survey, according to The New York Times. Big Papi, who has denied ever using banned substances, is on the ballot this year for the first time.
According to renowned Hall of Fame vote tracker Ryan Thibodaux, Ortiz is expected to easily earn enshrinement when results are announced Tuesday. Bonds and Clemens, on their 10th and final year on the writers’ ballots, are projected to flirt with earning 75 percent of the vote necessary for induction this summer in upstate New York.
I’ll never understand why there’s been different standards for guys like Bonds and Clemens compared to guys like Ortiz. As long as they didn’t commit some heinous crime, judge them by what they did on the diamond. Not off it.
That’s why I think Curt Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame despite his putrid political leanings. While his toxic social media rantings and ravings, that got him fired from ESPN, were the hallmarks of a clown, he was a great pitcher. His numbers are worthy of enshrinement and his best moments on the mound are among baseball’s most indelible from the past 20 years. Because of his politics, writers have refused to give him enough support for enshrinement. Like Bonds and Clemens, this is Schilling’s 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot. Can you really leave him out of a museum dedicated to documenting baseball excellence?
Hell, I think Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and anybody else who has ever been pinched for PEDs and served a suspension yet has worthy numbers, should be in the Hall. They didn’t smoke baseballs better than 99.9 percent of every major leaguer to ever suit up because they took steroids. Just put an asterisk on their plaque, or a quick sentence noting their suspensions. Even better, build a new wing dedicated to those supposedly stained by steroids. It’ll be full of the game’s best players from the past 25 years. But real quick, back to Barry, who already was a Hall of Famer before he allegedly started using PEDs.
The hypocrisy of the writers who have selectively ignored Bonds’ numbers for years, while bestowing other suspected steroid users with immortality, will never make sense to me. The same way I’ll never understand how a museum—whose mission statement is “Preserving history. Honoring excellence. Connecting generations.”—can’t handle the concept of context.